DOE Awards $3.9 Million To Advance Fast Spectrum Test Reactor

Idaho National Laboratory has announced nearly $3.9 million in funding for 13 university-led projects to develop instrumentation and tools needed to monitor and conduct experiments in a proposed fast spectrum test reactor.

Idaho National LabThe projects were awarded through the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy’s Versatile Test Reactor program as part of an effort to develop a conceptual design and cost estimate for a new, one-of-a-kind test reactor that would support advanced reactor research and development.

DOE’s Nuclear Energy Advisory Committee (NEAC) examined this issue and recommended in a 2017 report “that DOE-NE proceed immediately with pre-conceptual design planning activities to support a new test reactor (including cost and schedule estimates).” The recommendation was based, partially, on responses from U.S. companies developing advanced reactors, many of which require different testing facilities than the commercial nuclear power technology in use today. Currently, there are only a few capabilities available for testing fast neutron reactor technology in the world and none in the United States.

In response to the NEAC recommendation, the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy established the Versatile Test Reactor program. DOE-NE is working with national laboratories, universities, and industry partners to develop cost estimates, a conceptual design, and potential schedule.

DOE is expected to decide whether to proceed with a fast spectrum irradiation test reactor in 2020. If approved, the intent is for the test reactor to be designed and built by domestic research entities and industry partners, continuing to establish U.S. leadership in nuclear energy innovation.

The 13 funding awards went to the University of Pittsburgh for Disruptive Nuclear Technology: Resonance Sensors and Inductive Signal Transmission through Hermetic Walls; the University of Utah for Development of Experiment Vehicle for Analyzing the Chemistry of Irradiated Molten Salt; University of New Mexico for Preparatory Out-of-pile Lead Loop Experiments to Support Design of Irradiation Test Loop in VTR -- each awarded $450,000; Oregon State University for in Situ Mechanical and Corrosion Testing ($440,000); Texas A&M University for Rabbit System Design and Demonstration ($400,000); the University of Wisconsin-Madison for Miniature Scale Liquid Metal Oxygen Purification and Measurement System ($350,000); North Carolina State University for VIM for VTR: Holistic Approach to Design and Construction ($319,000); and Texas A&M University for Development of Innovative Measurement Techniques for Fission Product Transport Quantification ($250,000).

INL also announced on 8 October that it had received funding awards for seven projects proposed to the Department of Energy’s Office of Technology Transitions Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF). TCF was created in 2005 to promote promising energy technologies across DOE’s national labs.

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